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Applebee’s Serves Up Food and Fundraising

Article by Jonelle Kimbrough

“Would you like a ‘side of hope’ with your Quesadilla Burger?”

“Can I interest you in tonight’s special: funding for cancer research?”

No matter how they asked for donations, the teams at 66 regional Applebee’s restaurants raised $164,192 for cancer research during the ninth annual March Hoops fundraiser, held March 5 through April 7.

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A vast majority of those funds was raised one dollar at a time, said Michael Olander, President and CEO of Applebee’s franchisee Apple Gold Group.

The top fundraisers – all from North Carolina locations – were Demetrius Davis of High Point, Thomas Coley of Knightdale, Joseph Lisiewski of Jacksonville, Tyler Wittkofksy of Leland and Nancy Bulluck of Rocky Mount.

The Jacksonville restaurant was the top fundraising location, leveraging over $10,000 of the total funds raised.

“We’re changing lives,” said Davis, when asked why he participates in the program. Davis single-handedly raised about $4,600 – more than the totals raised by 55 of the restaurants.

“I really appreciate that all of the profits from this fundraiser go to cancer research,” added Wittkofsky.

Wittkofsky’s manager Jordan Anderson is proud of his staff. “We’ve all worked hard to create an atmosphere in our restaurant that supports [the March Hoops fundraiser],” he said. “We’ve been leveraging support not only from our patrons but from our entire community. Our feet have been on the street for a great cause.”

Davis, Wittkofsky, Anderson and their fellow humanitarians were honored for their contributions to The V Foundation at a celebration on June 25, where they toasted their accomplishments and reflected on the beneficiaries – the physicians and researchers working to end pediatric cancer at Duke Children’s Hospital.

“Our partnership with Applebee’s and The V Foundation is critical and has made a huge difference to us,” said Dr. Daniel Wechsler, a pediatric oncologist at Duke. “We’re very fortunate. The money that we receive helps us to do what we need to do.”

Wechsler discussed the tangible results of cancer research. He said that while cure rates for pediatric cancers have improved significantly in the past three decades, continued monetary support is more important than ever. “Ninety percent cure rates are fantastic,” he pointed out. “But, they are not 100 percent.” In addition, private donors are needed in the wake of tightened government funding for research. According to Wechsler, only four percent of the National Institutes of Health’s cancer funds are allocated to pediatric cancer research.

The V Foundation’s CEO Susan Braun remarked that she was inspired by the unique fundraising ideas shared by the staff of Applebee’s.

Elizabeth McGee of Apple Gold Group agreed, and she praised The V Foundation for its mission. “It’s incredibly gratifying that I work for a company that supports an organization that will one day put a stop to cancer,” McGee commented.

“We’re going to keep doing it until it’s done,” Braun assured.

From the servers who pound the pavement in search of donations to the diners who open their wallets just a bit wider to support a worthy cause, Applebee’s has been a faithful supporter of The V Foundation for nearly a decade. And, whether your pleasure is Fiesta Lime Chicken or Bourbon Street Steak, philanthropy can always be found in Applebee’s recipe for success.